March 7 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan government on Friday expressed disappointment over the United Nation’s recent report depicting the presence of its armed elements in the contested oil-producing region of Abyei.
- Soldiers from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) redeploy to form a new Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) battalion with the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) under the terms of an agreement on Abyei (Photo: UN/Tim McKulka)
“It is unfortunate that the United Nations continues to release reports on unverifiable events about the presence of the SPLA in Abyei, despite clarifications that we do not have any group in the area. We withdrew our forces in Abyei region in 2011 and never returned," said Kuol Monyluak, a senior official on the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC).
"The whole world witnessed the withdrawal of both police and SPLA forces," he added.
Malaak Ayuen, the army’s head of information and public relations also denied the UN report alleging the presence of the SPLA in the contested border area.
“We do not have forces in Abyei. The status of Abyei is known and the area has been under complete control of the United Nations interim force for Abyei (UNISFA) since 2011 when our forces which were part of the joint integrated units pulled out and never returned”, Ayuen told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview.
At least 77 people, an official said, were killed in unprovoked attack on Maker Awet, some 17 kilometers north west of Abyei town allegedly by a force involving the Sudanese army and the rival Arab nomads of Misseriya tribe. Another Khartoum allied militia, under the commander of Thomas Thiel, were reportedly part of the same attack.
The spokesperson of South Sudan Police Service, however, said he was not aware of any presence of the police force in the area after the last group pulled out in 2012.
“This is not true. The government of republic of South Sudan never deployed police force to Abyei. As far as I know that the last group was pulled out in 2012," James Monday said at an event held on Monday in the capital, Juba.
The UN Secretary General, in a report issued on 25 February, noted the presence of 660 SPLA forces and police elements deployed in different places of Abyei.
“UNISFA [United Nations Interim Forces in Abyei] observed the presence of around 660 military elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the South Sudan National Police Service, including more than 300 in Maker Abior, 100 in Noong, 75 in Leu, 70 in Dungoup, 69 in Marial Achak and 50 in Tejalei, all of which lie along the Misseriya migration corridor," partly reads the report.
"The SPLA and National Police Service elements were armed with AK-47 rifles and anti-tank rocket propelled grenades; many of them have established military-type settlements, some of which include fire trenches," it adds.
The forces in Abyei, the report stressed, included more than 6,000 people who went to the area from South Sudan in anticipation of the unilateral Ngok Dinka community referendum which was held between 27-29 October 2013. Approximately 4,500 of them, it said, left the contested region.
The Secretary General, however, insisted the presence of these armed forces was a violation of the previous commitment and resolutions of the Security Council, which demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the forces from the area and formation of joint administration.
UNISFA, according to Ban K-moon, would continue to operate in the absence of the interim arrangements, but warned that failure by the two sides to form the body and joint police would pose challenges to its mandate and sustainability.
“If further prolonged, this situation will not only continue to pose serious challenges to mandate implementation efforts; it will also call into question the sustainability of the mission. Despite the commitment made by President Al-Bashir and President Kiir on 3 September 2013 to expedite the implementation of the 20 June 2011Agreement, no concrete steps have been taken in this direction", the report further notes in part.
“It is critical that both countries move forward with the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration, the Abyei Area Council and the Abyei Police Service without delay.I also call upon the two Presidents to resume discussions on the final status of the Abyei Area based on the African Union High-level Implementation Panel proposal of 21 September 2012”, it added.